Where were you born and raised?
Born in Mexico City and raised in Kansas City's Westside Neighborhood since the age of 2.
What is your family heritage?
We are Mexican.
What is your occupation?
Senior Program Officer, Health Forward Foundation.
How have you supported or contributed to the local Hispanic/Latinx community?
I started off my career as an educational counselor with the LNESC (League of United Latin American Citizen's National Educational Service Center). As a high school student, LNESC helped me prepare for college and obtain scholarships for college....it felt good to go back to my community to help others plan for their future. While at LNESC I recruited and worked with students in the Padrino's Mentoring Program, the HLOP (Hispanic Leadership Opportunity Program), the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo De Zavala mock legislative program and the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund's Scholarship Program. I left LNESC to work for Kauffman Foundation's dropout prevention and college incentive program called Project Choice (Kauffman Scholars and KC Scholars are newer Kauffman programs that drew upon the lessons of Project Choice and relevant research to innovate around college preparation and access to college, but most importantly, college completion among low-income students). During my 14 year tenure at Kauffman Foundation I worked on various projects related to community development, youth development, early education, family support, out of school time, etc. While working full-time my husband,Dr. Uzziel H. Pecina and I raised 4 amazing children. All 4 attended the Kansas City Public School District and we enrolled them during the 1990's during the time that many young Latino families were leaving the urban core and KC to the suburbs for "better school districts." We decided to stay and try to be part of the solution to help all of our Latino students succeed in the KCPS public school system. I served on many different district-wide strategic planning efforts and tried to be a voice for our Latino community. Three of our 4 children have graduated from Lincoln College Prep and we're proud that they had a quality education in a very diverse environment. I run into many Latino professionals today (engineers, nurses, lawyers, police officers, educators, etc.) that I might have worked with at some point in their high school or college years and it's so humbling when they share with me how grateful they were to me for giving them the support they needed to be successful in their high school/college experience and careers.
How do you connect with your Hispanic/Latinx culture?
My parents and extended family still live in KC's Westside neighborhood and I live 5 minutes from them. I along with my family volunteer at the Westside CAN Center and the Annual KC Hispanic Heritage Festival. I'm also a mentor with the UMKC Avanzando program.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is going to Mexico City (by car) every Christmas to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with my dad's family...the posadas, pinatas, the singing of traditional religious songs and getting a pair of socks as a Christmas gift. :-)
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
It means that we need to pause and celebrate the many contributions that Latinos have made to this beautiful country we call home. Our Latino history is not captured in our American history books and if we don't take the time to ensure that our children and wider community learn about our history and contributions, our children will not have role models and the wider community will not value us as a group.
In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the Hispanic/Latinx community?
Economic inclusion, Financial Literacy...we need to continue to encourage academic achievement as a way out of poverty, but also teach our children how to save and invest early to plan for a financially strong future and build more wealth in our community. We are very "giving" people and we always help each other out, however we need to learn to also save and invest our hard earned dollars so that we can set our children and grandchildren up to succeed in life and not struggle like many us.